NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
Day two was my first opportunity to see the South team on the field practicing. With no QB separating himself from the pack it was a chance for the South QBs to steal the show and possibly improve their draft standing. The competition was good throughout the day, as the players settled in and got acquainted to their surroundings.
Who were the players who stood out? What was the highlight of the day? Which players struggled in this environment? All that and more in my 15 thoughts.
1. The overall QB play was better than at North Practice in my opinion. I thought Florida State QB EJ Manuel started off the day well with some accurate throws to the sideline and some nice velocity. As the throws got harder and the tempo of practice picked up his accuracy began to wane, especially on the deeper passes.
I thought Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson got better as the session went on. He made some very good throws into tight spaces, especially down the middle of the field. His arm strength is good not great, but it shouldn’t hurt him too much moving forward. He did end his team session with a pick six by FSU LB Vince Williams.
Landry Jones made some nice throws, but overall nothing has stood out about him. His overall presence on the field isn’t as noticeable as some of the other QBs.
2. If there was a star player of the day in my opinion it was Louisiana Tech WR Quinton Patton. He caught just about everything in sight, showed great hands, quick feet, precise routes and a big play ability. He definitely stood out among the South receivers and I think the consensus among people down here is that the two most impressive WR have been Patton and Oregon State WR Markus Wheaton.
3. While Patton was clearly the most impressive South receiver, I thought Duke’s Conner Vernon showed well today. He looked quick, ran well and seperated from coverage pretty well. After seeing him live and in person I think he can be a very good slot receiver. Vernon told me his favorite route to run is the dig route and he did a lot of that today. In change of direction drills he was one of the receivers who stood out to me.
4. The overall defensive back play on the South roster isn’t to the standard that it is on the North. While that said I thought one of the two best CB on the squad was Southeastern Louisiana’s Robert Alford. He displayed that quick twitch movement that Janoris Jenkins had last year. Alford is a fluid athlete with good hips and change of direction. His quick feet really stood out and was a player that I keep writing down in my notebook.
Alford was one of the best special teams performers during his college season and his overall athleticism and agility made it clear why he was such a good return-man.
5. Other than Alford the best CB on the South roster was San Diego State’s Leon McFadden. I loved the aggression that he played with and also made a number of tremendous breaks on the ball. On one drill he was able to track the deep ball well, adjust, go up get it and keep his feet in bounds. On top of that he made a number of pass break-ups and came after guys hard until the play was over.
He tried to strip Georgia WR Tavarres King at one point and it looked like he might have hurt King’s hand. Overall very solid practice by McFadden.
6. I really liked the way both South running backs played throughout practice today (Andre Ellington apparently withdrew). Stepfan Taylor was the better inside runner of the two, showing good vision, no wasted motion and good burst through the hole. He’s a physical back whose built really well. The knock on Taylor is his vertical speed and burst once he gets into the open field. As one scout remarked “Taylor is a good player, but probably runs a 4.65 40 yard dash”.
Florida RB Mike Gillislee showed better outside running potential. I really liked his patience on the edge to let his block develop and then cut it up field. On one particular play Rice TE Vance McDonald had a great block to clear a large running lane. Gillislee has a great build for a RB and possesses a good cutback move that seems to break a lot of tackles. I’d say UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin along with the two South RB are in the top RB tier down here and then the rest fall in behind.
7. Georgia DT John Jenkins was impressive to watch in person today. He’s just a massive human being, but his quickness and motor really stood out to me. For a big guy he was going hard on drills and playing to the whistle. In pass rush and line drills he was just so physically and powerful at times that the opposing linemen would have no chance.
He is able to bull rush and get leverage on these linemen and push them around. Today Jenkins lined up at nose tackle, at times 3-tech and I believe 1-tech if I saw it right. While many think Jenkins is limited to just NT, I think his quickness will allow him to play 3-tech in a 4-3.
8. Ezekial Ansah did not stand out today. He’s not going to be the edge rush presence that was originally thought. He got blocked real easily in pass rush drills and couldn’t get off a lot of blocks with a recovery move. The only time I was impressed by Ansah was when he ripped inside quickly and was able to close on the opposing QB.
For a player who was as hyped as he was mid-way through the year, there is not much buzz down in Mobile about him.